A senior producer at BBC Radio 1 allowed the continuation of swear words to be aired during a Lily Allen set on the Big Weekend because “few children would be listening.”
The station had three complaints upheld against it, which breached the broadcast code, after Ofcom decided the station could have done more to prevent or cut away from the stage feed.
But Radio 1 said it offered “very clear signposting” that Lily Allen’s set, which aired between 17:30 and 18:15 on 24 May 2014 could contain offensive language.
The regulator noted that there were six instances of “fuck” during Lily Allen’s 45 minute performance.
At 17:27, immediately prior to Lily Allen going on stage, the on-air presenter, Scott Mills, broadcast the following warning: “Now don’t forget this set may contain some strong language, it is live on Radio 1’s Big Weekend. We’re about to see Lily Allen. If you’re easily offended please go to the website and check out some other performance”.
Lily Allen’s set contained 11 songs in total, three of which included “fuck” (three instances in the first song at 17:32, one instance in the fourth song at 17:43 and two instances in the ninth song at 18:04). Following the first instance of “fuck” in each song the broadcast was immediately interrupted with an apology from the on-air
presenter, with these apologies repeated at the end of the tracks.
Ofcom also noted one instance of Ed Sheeran using the word “fucking” during his performance at approximately 18:45.
Ed Sheeran’s set was preceded by the following warning from the on-air presenter at approximately 18:39: “As with all these performances today it is live from Radio 1’s Big Weekend so there may be some bad language, so if you’re easily offended got to the website and check out some of the other content from the festival”.
Immediately after the offensive language was used by Ed Sheeran, the on-air presenter broadcast an apology, with a second apology after the end of the track.
The BBC said that Radio 1’s Big Weekend is an established feature of that service’s calendar attracting a huge demand for tickets for this live event. As a result the broadcaster believed there was a strong argument for providing listeners unable to attend in person with the opportunity to enjoy an “as-live” atmosphere that mirrored the experience of actually being at the event as closely as possible.
However the BBC stated that in retrospect it believed Radio 1 should have stopped broadcasting live Lily Allen’s set after the second song when she used offensive language, and only broadcast the remainder of her performance once it had been edited.
The BBC said it regretted the offensive language during Ed Sheeran’s set. It stated however that this was an isolated incident that occurred relatively late when younger children would be less likely to be listening, especially as Ed Sheeran’s music generally appealed to older age groups.
Ofcom referred back to a similar incident in 2011 and said the BBC should have learnt from previous events.